Why Our Kids Don’t Play Eleventy Billion Sports

I can sum it all up right there with one picture. Of course there’s more to it than that…but yesterday was a very good reminder of why we live a flexible life.

We have three kids. Three young kids. Ages 7, 5 and 4. As any parent knows, those are ages that are absolutely FULL of energy. While it can be exhausting, its also one of the things I absolutely love about being a parent.

Organized sports is one of those hot button topics with a lot of parents. For a variety of reasons, Mr W and I have decided not to put our kids in any of these programs while they’re spending time with us. Don’t take that to mean we don’t let them try new things. They’ve all taken swim lessons, played some soccer or basketball, scouting and are actively involved with church and their friends. But we don’t “do” soccer or baseball or basketball or cheerleading. (Yet.)

Primarily because I’ve talked to too many parents who live out of their cars. Too many people who are so busy experiencing all that life has to offer that they forget to enjoy it. To many people who live on fast food and cram homework time into drive time.

Now there’s no denying that in some instances, all of those things are necessary. There’s also no denying that for some kids, organized sports are an absolute gift of an experience. But for us… we’ve made the decision to spend at LEAST the first year of our marriage focusing primarily on our time together as a family and solidifying our relationships with each other.

It’s why Mr W left his job in corporate America to join me at the helm of my small marketing agency. It’s why we agreed to cut our annual income almost in half to exist in a world where we both work 25-30 hours a week. It’s why we do way less eating out and way more picnicking on the carpet or in the backyard. Mostly, I believe it’s why we’ve had such an amazing life this past six months.

And it’s why last night when the kids got off the bus and said “can we have a picnic by the creek for dinner?” I said “that sounds awesome, let’s do it!”

So Mr W helped Things One and Two get their homework done while I pulled bags of bite size bento treats out of the freezer, made a few packages of Ramen noodles and packed up grapes, carrots and clementines. Then off we raced down the hill to our creek.

Where we set up shop with blankets in one of the most beautiful spots of our property.

One of these days Mr W and I will get a chance to get down in that lower pond with some shovels to clear out the sediment and muck that has gathered there. We’ll also prune back the tree that blocks the lower end of the pool. Once we do, it will be roughly waist height for the kids and wide enough to play around with floating tubes and kick boards. For now, they’re content to splash around on the edges. (After learning the hard way last year that feet stuck in mud = mom or dad pulling you back out.)

Of course we had to make sure they snagged some food first, but everyone knows it’s always more fun to eat outside.

Then it was back to the creek to stand at the edge of the “waterfall” (which I find amusing since we actually have a four foot tall waterfall further down the creek…) and dare each other to step over the edge.

Of course there’s also the occasional potty break…

And the chance to drag Mr. W in to the creek with them. (Hey, I’d paid my dues and had been splashing around barefoot while taking pictures already.)

Then Thing Three discovered that mint was back in season and all bets for splashing were off as the kids scoured the side of the creek bank for fresh mint.

Overall, it was one of those afternoons of unscheduled freedom that reminded my why I love flexibility. If they come home and homework is heavy, that’s fine, we have time. If they come home and it’s gorgeous out and they get homework done fast, we can spend the evening outside exploring the yard, riding bikes or playing made up games. If we want to picnic, we picnic.

And spending this time together has been a wonderful way to build the foundation of our little family.

Of course eventually it’s time to pack up. As the boys raced up the hill carrying shoes and socks, I packed up the picnic bag and Thing One helped Mr W fold up the blankets. The two of them followed me up the hill, each carrying one, until I heard her say “Daddy, this hill is steep, can you help with the blanket?” and I heard a swoosh and a bunch of giggles.

And I was reminded why I keep the camera nearby…


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